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Fundamental concepts of i nsul ati on testi ng (on photo Di gi tal Surge/ Hi Pot / Resi stance Tester on si te)
Edvard
Fundamental Concepts of Insulation Testing
Introduction
Probably 80% of all testing perf ormed in electrical power systems is related to the verification of
insulation quality. This technical article brief ly describes the f undamental concepts of insulation testing
including insulation behavior, types of tests, and some test procedures.
AC or DC?
Most electrical equipment in utility, industrial, and commercial power systems uses either 50Hz or 60Hz
alternating current. Because of this, the use of an alternating current source to test insulation would
appear to be the logical choice.
Fi gure 1 - Insul ati on wi th an AC vol tage appl i ed
Fi gure 2 - Insul ati on current wi th AC vol tage appl i ed
Fi gure 3 - Insul ati on wi th DC vol tage appl i ed
However, insulation systems are
extremely capacitive. For this
and other reasons, DC has f ound a
large niche in the technology. Bef ore
we can really evaluate the value of
one system as opposed to the other
(e.g. AC vs DC), let us examine how
each type of voltage af f ects
insulation.
Insulat ion Current Flow (AC)
Insulation may be simply modeled as a
capacitor in parallel with a resistor as
shown in Figure 1. The current f low that results will comprise two components: the capacitive current (I
c
)
and the resistive current (I
r
).
Figure 2 shows the time
domain graph of the two
currents. For good
insulation:
I
c
100 x I
r
I
c
r
by close
to 90
Insulat ion Current
Flow (DC)
When DC current is
involved, insulation may be modeled in a slightly dif f erent way. Consider Figure 3 below:
When switch S
1
is closed, the DC supply is
connected to the insulation system. In the DC
model an extra capacitor has been added
(dashed lines). The current that f lows through
this new capacitor is called the dielectric
absorption current (I
da
) and will be explained
later.
Figure 4 show the time relationship f or these
three currents. The f ollowing paragraphs
explain each of the three currents.
Fi gure 4 - DC current fl ow i n good i nsul ati on
Capacit ive Current (Ic)
The capacitive current charge the
capacitance in the system. It normally
stops f lowing a f ew seconds (at most)
af ter the DC voltage is applied. The short
burst of capacitive current f low may put a
rather substantial stress on any test
equipment that is applied to very large
insulation systems such as cables or large
rotating machine.
Dielect ric Absorpt ion Current (Ida)
The applied insulation voltage puts a
stress on the molecules of the insulation.
The positive side of the molecules are
attracted to the negative conductor and
the negative side of the molecules are
attracted to the positive conductor.
The result is an energy that is supplied to realign the molecules much like f orce will realign a network of
rubber bands. Like I
c
, I
da
usually dies of f f airly quickly as the molecules realign to their maximum extent.
Resist ive (Leakage) Current (Ir)
This is the electron current f low that actually passes through the insulation. In good insulation the resistive
current f low will be relatively small and constant.
In bad insulation the leakage current may be f airly large and it may actually increase with time.
Resource: TECHNICAL BULLETIN 012a Principles of Insulation Testing by Cadick Corporation